Bicentennial Interview: Harborview Rick Bleeds Bridgeport Blue, A Park City ‘Lifer’

Michelle and Rick Torres, Harry Laurie
File image: Rick Torres and wife Michele chat with fellow Black Rocker Harry Laurie during OIB party at Bijou Theater.

Rick Torres is an anomaly in city politics: the last Republican elected to a city office in one’s own right–the City Council–without the benefit of state-mandated, minority party representation. In 2015 he came within a whisker of winning a State House seat in a special election, edged by Democrat Steve Stafstrom. In 2003, he waged a competitive race for mayor during a maelstrom of city corruption.

He’s run twice since for mayor and now has taken a back seat in the political department. If there’s a mayor of Black Rock, the cool waterfront hamlet, it’s Rick, embraced by area residents who migrate to his landmark Harborview Market, part think tank, part gossip portal, part pleasure center among family and friends. And the food that Rick, his wife Michele, family and workers create has a tasty reputation beyond the neighborhood.

Rick’s sturdy conservative mantra is also an outlier in Connecticut’s largest city. When on the stump he’s unabashed about his core beliefs yet most who disagree are able to separate the man from the issues.

The cerebral former Republican State Senator Rob Russo framed it well saying years ago “When he’s Harborview Rick, people love him.”

Rick came to the U.S. with his family from Castro’s Cuba when he was a boy. Since then, he’s volunteered at his kids schools, his church and with his neighborhood Little League. The Torres family recently bought the landmark music venue, the Acoustic Cafe, on Fairfield Avenue to bring more live music to the community and more people into Bridgeport. Here, he shares his thoughts with OIB, part of our Bridgeport Bicentennial commemoration.

Torres on bike
Rick Torres on his victorious campaign bike for City Council.

Q. What is your first memory of Bridgeport?
A. We arrived from Cuba late in the year 1967. I remember living in Evergreen Garden Apartments. I remember the first snowfall that year. I remember playing Black Rock Little league as an eight-year-old that Spring. I remember going to Longfellow grammar school and having my Puerto Rican classmate translate what the teacher said.

Q. What are your ties to Bridgeport and what do you do, either work or volunteer work, that benefits the city and its residents?
A. I have had a long and active life in Bridgeport. I was involved in community politics for 35 years. I volunteered as a Black Rock Little League coach, manager, board member and president for 15 years. I coached basketball at St. Ann’s grammar school in both the boy’s and girl’s teams. I was the chairman of the St. Ann building committee that both renovated the church and built the gymnasium.

Q. What do you like best about Bridgeport?
A. I call myself a Bridgeport lifer. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I love the history of Bridgeport. I love Bridgeport’s heterogeneous population. I love the many people, like me, who feel the same way about the city.

Q. Where is your favorite spot in the city to visit and why?
A. St. Mary’s by the sea is nearby my home. It is a seawall walk and the sea is invigorating and picturesque.

Q. What’s your favorite Bridgeport eatery and what do you like there? Not a trick question!
A. My bias here is based on being at Harborview Market each and every day. We do a good job at maintaining an interesting menu which we partake in often.

Q. Where  do you see the city going?
A. As of 2015 I have disconnected from the political goings-on of the city. Recently, Michele and I have purchased the business formerly known as the Acoustic Cafe. The new name will be “Park City Music Hall.” We will try to be successful in bringing the music life back to Bridgeport and we will make every effort to celebrate the city’s rich park amenities.

Q. If you had a magic wand and could make a miracle happen for the city, what would it be?
A. My most important issue when I had political aspirations was to improve the quality of life for Bridgeporters. Too many people in the city are stuck in a vicious poverty cycle. I would change that if I could.

3+
Share

13 comments

  1. I might disagree with Rick politically, but I wish him and his family continued success in their new venture. Anyone willing to invest their sweat and capital in Bridgeport deserves support.

    3+
  2. Don’t forget …
    Enrique Torres decided in Dec 2014 to make a special call to Rush Limbaugh for …

    https://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2014/12/18/supposedly_conservative_callers_defend_obama_s_cuba_policy/

    Excerpt:

    BREAK TRANSCRIPT

    RUSH: Enrique, Bridgeport, Connecticut. Hi, Enrique, great to have you on the EIB Network. Hello.

    CALLER: Hey, Rush, it’s a real, real pleasure. I gotta tell you, I graduated from a very liberal university, and I was as liberal and as atheist as I could be, and once I listened to Rush Limbaugh by the demands of my mother-in-law, that I listened to you for a day, caused a complete turnaround and I am now as conservative as they come.

    RUSH: That is amazing, and you owe it all to your mother-in-law to boot.

    CALLER: My mother-in-law. She’s a wonderful woman, and at the time I hated her like the devil. But now I’m as Christian as can be and as conservative as can be, and conservatism is truly the answer to all ills.

    RUSH: Enrique, that’s wonderful to hear.

    CALLER: That’s a fact. I tried calling you for ten years! Ten years I’ve been calling you, and I just got through today. I’d love to call you some future day and talk to you about black relations, because that’s my new pet. I am an elected official in the city of Bridgeport. I am a city councilman. I’m the only Republican out of 20, and I’m the first Republican in eight years to sit in that council. So, you know, frankly, as conservative as can be and looking —

    RUSH: Okay, let me guess what’s coming next. Let me guess what’s coming next. The lifting of the embargo was a great thing?

    CALLER: Well, now, look, let’s not go there. My father fought against Fidel Castro, okay, so I don’t even want to go to the point that I think that helping a Regime or a Castro-like person is a good thing. However, I do believe that free trade with Cuba, because I believe in capitalism, will liberate the people a hell of a lot faster than what’s been the example for 53 years —

    RUSH: Right.

    CALLER: — it’s not 55; it’s 53 years of an embargo that has not worked.

    RUSH: Well, Enrique, look, I appreciate the call. I am moved deeply by your announced conversion. It’s great. I’m thrilled that your mother-in-law is your mother-in-law. I’m really glad you called. Thanks much. Okay, that’s two today. Do you know what I’m talking about? What am I talking about? (interruption) Hm-hm. (interruption) No, it’s not just that. You’re leaving out a key ingredient. We’ve had two people who have called, “Rush, I am as conservative as can be.” This last guy, “I used to be the biggest liberal, but I am more conserve, I’m the biggest conservative. I love lifting the embargo.”

    Look, I’ll drop it. It doesn’t matter. It’s a no-win in this case. This is one of those moments where I’ll hold my opinion in check. Anyway, Snerdley, I know, when we have a day like this, when Obama comes along and does something that America has steadfastly stood for for decades and then reverses it, you are guaranteed to find me at least two people who claim to be more conservative than anybody in the country who love the idea. (interruption) No, I’m not calling — no, no, no, no, no, no. No, I’m observing how these things happen.

    BREAK TRANSCRIPT

    RUSH: Now, don’t misunderstand me, folks. Our last caller, Enrique, we looked him up. He’s Enrique Torres, city councilman in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Might run for mayor of Bridgeport. He is a pretty conservative guy. I was not challenging what he said. I just… I don’t know. This is the second call today, we got a guy calling up, “Man, I’m the biggest conservative in the world. I used to be the biggest liberal. I used to hate you, but my mother-in-law, my sister convinced me that you’re the greatest guy in the world. I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for 10 years, and I finally have, and I just gotta tell you, I’m the biggest conservative in the world, and I agree with Obama.”

    “I tried calling you for ten years! Ten years I’ve been calling you, and I just got through today. I’d love to call you some future day and talk to you about black relations, because that’s my new pet,” hey Rick tells us about your new pet.

    1+
    1. *** REALLY, no body cares if he called Rush or any of those idiot r-wing, under cover racist ideology radio shows; it seemed like a bit of personal publicity on Torres part. Anyway he’s a better businessman in my opinion than he was ever a city councilman, why because while he was out-side the political box he thought as an individual city council person, you could move mountains in Bpt. And was always hounding anyone in Bpt’s city politics for a while. But after being on the council for, (i have no idea how long) I believe he found out real quick that things are a bit different when your actually in-side the political box. I’am not sure what he was able to do or not do while on the city- council but after his terms were up, he seemed to lose some of his prior intense interest in politics in general. So maybe he learned to never judge a book by its cover, till you’ve read the entire book, no? ***

      1+
  3. Wow Ron Mackey- That was an amazing transcript- very disturbing to say the least. On a brighter note– Harborview has the BEST cookies ever!!

    1+
  4. Hey Ron, does Little Stevie A have any new restaurant reviews he like to share with us?
    Not to many please! A little Stevie A is a lot to take all at once.

    0
  5. While I don’t agree with Mr Torres politics, I wish he would have stayed on the City Council as a voice of discontent rather than his failed run for mayor. Mr Torres was an independent thinker who would have been a valuable asset to the Council.

    2+
    1. Don, I’m in total agreement with you, Rick had a billed in base of voters for the city council but he wanted to run for mayor knowing that he couldn’t win. Rick could have a valuable asset for a loyal opposition that Bridgeport needs instead of a one party system of just Democrats who are scare of Mario because he would primary them because they didn’t follow orders.

      0
  6. Mojo, you said, “*** REALLY, no body cares if he called Rush or any of those idiot r-wing, under cover racist ideology radio shows; it seemed like a bit of personal publicity on Torres part.” Mojo it doesn’t stop there, here is another look at Rick Torres.

    Rick Torres says:
    July 17, 2013 at 9:29 am
    Ron, I grew up in the Evergreen Garden Apartments (now Stop ‘n’ Shop in Black Rock). By the grace of God I have a very good Biology degree from Wash U. in St. Louis. That degree allows me to state unequivocally that blacks and whites are for the most part statistically genetically identical on the inside. The outside, our skin and hair, that is different and there are good adaptation reasons for those differences. However, blacks fail miserably relative to whites. Example: 5X the number in jail. 20X the dropout rates.

    So if we are genetically identical, then what’s the problem? I wanted to know. My ministry answers that question and I share it with pastors who are interested in hearing my conclusions.

    0
    1. *** Well, that little tit-bit says alot about Torres under-lying race issues, he’s always carried himself more like an Anglo than a latino in his over aggressive quest to prove to “?” that he’s an american & a republican! I would not be overly surprised to know that he’s a trumpee too! What else can I say, to each is own, some people live there ethic roots privately @ home & carry a different persona in public. ***

      0

Leave a Reply